group began with Ulysses and Clapton put the gymnasium under pulsating
currents of warm water with his unerringly sensitive use of the wawa [sic]
the outset, with the opening wall of sound announcing “tales of Brave
Ulysses, the group established their absolute virtuosity…[T]his number
corresponded more to the recorded version then anything else that Saturday
this stage the Heineman review misses Sunshine of Your Love, however I
feel it is an editors cut, as the next sentence fits a 12 minute Sunshine
rather then a 4 minute Tales
here as throughout, laid down an unyielding beat, and the three got
together on an accelerating Coda, which is not on the album version.
“Sunshine of Your Love”…they got into their extended improvisation
work…After going through the entire song as they recorded it, they
doubled the rhythm and then just played for the next quarter of an hour.
And it was at this point that my disappointment with the group
began to stare me in the face.
they didn’t play it like the album – Clapton’s bridge solo does not
include the “Blue Moon” quote and is longer.
In the Rolling Stone version the ¼ hour was corrected to “10
followed with NSU, a deceptively simple tune. The routining is curious.
As nearly as can be made out, Baker, using mallets, joined after a
bar by Clapto’s guitar, put down what sounded from the accents like a
back beat (a one, a two), but then Bruce’s vocal started a half-beat
behind them, and it seemed evident that the guitar and rums were playing
one-a two-a, but with accents
inverted, and Bruce was singing on the prebeat.
This went on for only two measures, and then there was a maddening
pause on the half-beat by Bruce so he could come in on the orthodox rhythm
for the remaining 10 bars. The
tension created by this double reversal of what one thought one was
hearing metrically was fascinating
shortcomings were again apparent in “N.S.U.”. This is one of their own compositions and I think it is a
terrible song both melodically and lyrically. Yet I enjoyed it most when they were actually playing and
singing the piece…Once the improvisation began, wholly unrelated to the
context that the song had set for it, [melodically] indistinguishable from
the improvisation that preceded it, the whole concept of interaction, the
whole concept of a band was destroyed.
abandoning the chord progression of the song they started out with and
improvising solely around the root chord…they insure the incompatibility
of the solo compared with the song. It
was every man for himself and back to the cliches
was a clever play on beat juxtaposition as Heineman accurately describes.
It was one of Jack’s early compositions with very simple lyrics
(no Pete Brown here). It was
a great jamming vehicle and this version has great changes in dynamics,
tempos and includes a Baker solo. Landau
says it was “unplanned” and resulted from amp power failure.
I don’t know – to me Jack and Eric were teasing Baker and the
drop out point is smooth and Baker continues without hesitation.
appears not to have heard of collective improvisation.
was Clapton’s guitar breaks: whines, cat meowing, other fragmentary
sounds (he owes something of his bottom-fret climaxes to B.B. King).
The solo alternated between legato runs, usually ascending, and
hard nosed chord work.
means the creation of new musical ideas spontaneously.
It does not mean stringing together pieces and phrases of already
learned musical ideas. It means using these phrases as a basis for exploration and
extension….Clapton’s problem is that while he has vast creative
potential, at this time he hasn’t begun to fullfill it.
He is a virtuoso performing other people’s ideas.
got the nagging feeling that the whole solo could be charted out to show
the source of every phrase.
looks at jazz with rose coloured glasses.
Many jazz improvisations are just what Landau criticises here –
“stock phrases’, “standard changes’ etc are freely admitted means
to improvise in jazz. The
giants – Parker, Coltrane, Monk, Evans, Davis, Gillespie etc were GIANTS
for their incredible ability to complexly improvise at will.
However one can still hear their ‘stock’ phrases and quotes
from other songs.
and good luck on charting the solos – and don’t forget to map the
stretches, vibratos, note fragments, sustain, controlled feedback etc
who is the badest looking English cat I have ever seen…performed an
extended solo showing strong, strong chops and he never misses.
But the solo was strangely dull..almost exclusively with 16th-note
divisions, done mostly on tom-toms.
did two instrumentals, a slow blues with another fine Clapton solo that
switched from double-time to the original tempo a couple of times.
was followed by what was for me the highlight of the evening…a slow
blues…”I’m Sitting on Top of the World”.
This tune is a white country blues, originally done by Bill Monroe,
and recorded a few years ago by Doc Watson..
Cream… slowed it down to a slow crawl, with a heavy, heavy beat.
They performed the number as a straight blues with little
improvisation and it was probably the shortest cut they did all night.
Clapton’s guitar playing, which was here given the full melodic
range of a blues progression to play itself off again (instead of the
simple root chord…), was among the the best blues playing I have ever
heard – straight B.B. King. Bruce’s
singing, which was generally incredibly better then it is on records,
was at its best on this cut.
is clearly referring to “Sittin’ On top of the World”
– must have forgotten Jack’s vocals but Landau didn’t.
Landau shoots himself in the foot here.
This “Sittin’ on Top of the World” is not the Monroe version
– the song is correctly credited to Chester Burnett. Cream’s is firmly based on, but significantly varies
from, Howlin’ Wolf’s Dec 1957 Chess recording, including Jack’s
vocal phrasing. It was
originally recorded by ‘The Mississipi Sheiks on Feb 17 1929 for the
solo is not straight B.B King – has Landau really listened to B.B.?
Clapton has built this song into a powerful expression of HIS blues
playing – it is straight Eric Clapton, though he clearly ..”owes
something of his bottom-fret climaxes to B.B. King”.
It is a classic Rock Blues – the drums and bass alone.
an up-tempo, 16 bar blues, with Baker doing some good brush work behind a
Clapton solo. I would like to
describe that solo, but I can’t. My
notes say, “God!” That’s
all. All I can say that for
two minutes or 12 hours )I have no idea exactly how long it was) that
Clapton soloed, I got as high up and far out as I ever have on jazz.
followed…with hos own featured piece “Stepping Out”.
Bruce stopped in the middle … and Clapton and Baker got into some
pretty intense interaction…Generally, the entire thing was twice as long
as it should have been and was too much in the established mode of lengthy
but ultimately aimless improvising. Baker’s
drumming was much too busy…
is one of the best “Stepping Out’s” available. Turn it up loud and go with Heineman.
wouldn’t have liked John Coltrane – 30 minutes of improvisation from
with Clapton laying out, a freight-train blues featuring some Bruce
pyrotechnics on harmonica, including a vocal-harmonica duet with himself
…a la Sonny Terry. It was a
remarkable display, though musically not altogether rewarding.
Out” was followed by a harp show piece by Jack Bruce which was easily
the low point of the evening.
plays one of his best if a bit long.
correspondent, David Moran, disagreed with Landau’s “low point”
finished the long set with Toad … a short Clapton solo and a long Baker
exercise, again, mainly with 16ths, received a standing ovation.
closed with Baker’s show piece “Toad”.
I think it would have been more effective if Baker hadn’t taken
an unplanned solo in “N.S.U.” when the power momentarily went dead on
Bruce’s and Clapton’s amps.
Baker is a solid drummer who gets a fantastic sound out of his drums. However he is extremely repetitious, not particularly creative, and highly overactive. I found it terribly boring.
owes its repertoire to a number of sources…It probably would not have
been able to assimilate the blues concept without the pioneering work of
the Stones and Beatles. But
the resulting amalgam is all Cream, and it is a moving, powerful original
have been called a jazz group. They
are not, they are a blues band and a rock band…Ultimately what we heard
were three virtuosos romping through every trick in the book, occasionally
building it into something, occasionally missing the mark altogether, but
always in a one-dimensional style that made no use of dynamics, structure,
or any of the other elements of rock besides drum licks and riffs.
say this, strong as it sounds, is not a condemnation of the group, only a
criticism. I want to make it
absolutely clear that there aren’t two or three American bands that come
within miles of Cream … Compared to Cream, such groups [Doors, Jefferson
Airplane, Big Brother] don’t have the technical equipment, the
understanding of their instruments with which to begin to play rock.
obviously doesn’t know anything about British Blues/R&B and
Baker/Bruce/Clapton’s involvement from the seminal days.
improvisation is a bit hit and miss – Cream are all hits this night.
Cream were one of the early ‘riff’ bands but they used it
sparingly – Ulysses is all melody, Sunshine – Riff, N.S.U – A
beat/chording shuffle, Sittin’ – Blues progression, Stepping – a
variable riff (originally a piano boogie piece), Traintime – train sound
mimic (harp and drums), Toad – opens with a riff but all drum solo.
play with great dynamic range on this – loud to deafening.
Landau may have had problems with their volume level.
Lots of structure to me and Heineman– ah well different ears
the concert Cream conducted itself with a dignity and charm which is
unmatched by anything we have in this country. They refused to patronize the audience…They played their
music honestly and they sincerely hoped people would dig it.
comments were not included in the Rolling Stone review.
as a whole, Cream is in a transitional phase of their career at this time.
Having mastered the rudiments of their instruments they are rapidly
approaching the point where they have to ask themselves where they want to
go. Currently, their live
style and their record style reveals both their talent and also their
As it stands now, the whole is not equal to its parts …yet the Cream, even now, are so much more then than simple master of their instruments. When they get over their virtuosity hang-up – which is what I think their kind of virtuosity is – I think we might really see something…[W]hat we saw Sunday morning was the Cream warming up. The real Cream is still on its way.
is obsessed by the virtuosity thing but then puts them down by saying they
have “mastered the rudiments of their instruments”. Virtuosos are clearly on a higher technical plane then
were jamming because that’s what they did best. Nice catchy songs they left for the studio and even then
they were often relatively complex and required their individual
virtuosity to lay ‘em down.
Landau also takes a great lump of journalistic licence – “When an interviewer asks one of the other members of Cream if they think Eric is the best lead guitarist playing today, they will invariably reply that he is second. It goes without saying for them that B.B.King is the greatest.” Well I’d like to find those interviews. No interview of Jack or Ginger that has been sighted by me, or my fellow collectors, has contained any such statement. On the contrary they were full of praise for Eric. Ginger quite clearly states that they are the best in the world!
One of the interesting things is that neither reviewer talks about the ensemble playing which is one of the strong points of this concert. N.S.U. in particular finds them playing around and doing the round-robin style of controlling the song. It really is not dominated by Clapton at all - they all share the load.
Landau, in the “Rolling Stone” version mentions that “Disraeli Gears” is pervaded by the influence of Albert King and Chuck Berry. Considering that that was recorded 14 months previously and that Ahmet Ertugen wanted a white Albert King, then it is irrelevant except as another slash at Eric.
The editors of “Rolling Stone” clearly encouraged Landau to sharpen his attack on Cream and Eric in particular, as compared to the original review. Baker gets a fair working over as well with only Jack getting some compliments for his singing.
We have Heineman’s review plus the bootleg – Landau was wrong.
Eric Clapton was a great guitarist, breaking barriers and having a huge
influence on other rock guitarists - "he has to be heard to be
believed". As was Bruce and Baker on their respective instruments
plus the band as
Eric Clapton was a great guitarist, breaking barriers and having a huge influence on other rock guitarists - "he has to be heard to be believed". As was Bruce and Baker on their respective instruments plus the band as a whole.
Thanks to Greg Renoff for his research
Some more comments on Jon Landau, the critic
Delta Nick has provided the following quotes:
Referring to "Blues Breaker With Eric
Clapton," Landau writes, "It is very likely the finest white blues
album ever made" (Jon Landau, "Blues Breakers/Fresh Cream,"
Crawdaddy! August 1967, p. 15)
"As a lead guitarist Eric [Clapton] is really every bit as good as people have been saying he is (Jon Landau, "Blues Breakers/Fresh Cream," Crawdaddy! August 1967, p. 15).
From Doug T:
"Among his other highpoints in
journalism were that he was the guy who told Duane Allman that they should
tighten up the songs and make Greg ditch the organ and make him a typical lead
singer frontman type of guy (though in his defense Jon did publicly admit that
he was wrong for having said that in a review published a few months before
Duane death). Landau also wrote a review with the statement "I have seen
the future of rock and roll and his name is Bruce Springsteen..". Bruce's
US record company used it in print ads and Bruce must have liked it too, since
Landau has been his manager since the late 70's.
Keeps him from sharing his opinions, which is a good thing."